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ArtPlast Artificial chloroplasts: Nature-inspired electronic molecular nanoparticle platform

Carlsberg Foundation Young Researcher Fellowships

What

Nature has since ever used complex biological nanostructures to harvest sunlight and convert it to chemical energy, fueling the growth of plants worldwide. My ArtPlast concept is based on replicating the successful processes in plants and developing a platform technology, where more and more bio-inspired features can be added, opening for a wealth of new application areas. More specifically, I will synthesize an artificial chloroplast using conjugated donor:non-fullerene acceptor:antioxidant nanoparticles that facilitates photosynthetic processes in the same way that nature has so delicately perfected, thus providing an efficient and stable material system for green energy technologies - H2 evolution and solar electricity generation.

Why

Organic semiconductors are promising materials for photocatalytic water splitting - in which solar energy is used to produce hydrogen, and for photovoltaic cells - where solar energy is used to directly produce electricity, as they enable truly green and sustainable energy solutions. Very recent development of non-fullerene acceptor molecules has disrupted these technologies, drastically boosting their conversion efficiencies. However, key disadvantages with current available solutions make them unstable over time. The Artplast platform will exploit nature's solutions of overcoming these issues in plants, thus advancing future solar energy generation and storage, in the same way as nature- without degrading its organic constituents.

How

I will mimic the energy-converting and self-healing mechanism of a leaf, in which photooxidatively protecting carotenoids are confined near the chlorophylls which oversee light absorption, energy transfer and electric charge separation. In the heart of the platform are the new non-fullerene organic semiconductors with naturally occurring stabilizers within size- and morphology-controlled nanoparticles. Using in-depth advanced spectroscopic and high-resolution synchrotron-powered imaging techniques, and aided by machine learning techniques, I will reveal the delicate morphology-photophysics-photochemistry relationships in these materials, which will enable me to develop the design guidelines for efficient and reliable energy material systems.

SSR

This project will push forward the fields of organic photovoltaics and photocatalysis, and also open up for applications in related renewable technologies, such as CO2 reduction catalysts, as well as the field of organic semiconductor-based printed electronics, which is expected to provide energy efficient components of the future. This project thus contributes to a truly zero-emission society, using solely low environmental impact approaches, which is recognized as the grand societal challenge of our times.